Raw Earth Sgraffito Pavilion installation co-created by Lynnette Widder and Lola Ben-Alon
November 7, 2023

Flows and Sinks: Buildings and Their Materials in Paris

Reid Hall | 4 rue de Chevreuse 75006 Paris
Free and open to the public / Registration required
In the context of man made environmental change, how can we change the way in which materials are sourced for construction? How can we increase the use of local materials? What does it take to properly measure how these materials are moving?

Using Reid Hall’s own Raw Earth Sgraffito Pavilion as a point of reference, this event will consider both the metabolism of construction materials in Paris and the city’s unique transportation network. The Pavilion, built using unfired stabilized soils, agricultural by-products, as well as wood and natural sealants, will serve as a starting point for a discussion on environmentally responsive construction practices. 

In 2005, human activity began moving more material on earth than natural processes. Construction alone accounts for 30% of these shifts, which operate at rates nearly 40% faster than those caused by natural erosion and sedimentation (Wilkinson, 2005). At stake is not only how much earth is being moved, but also how fast that movement is happening.

These larger phenomena can be observed by looking at the rate at which construction material moves through cities. In Paris, more than 33.5 metric tons of construction material are deployed each year (Augiseau, 2020), largely minerals such as gypsum and sand. The greatest density of these materials is found in the city’s historic center, but that stock is also in flux. Energy efficiency requirements, regular upkeep, weathering, and fluctuating consumer demands create an ongoing need for materials used in renovation and rehabilitation. The difficulty of trucking and conveyance in Paris’ narrow streets paired with the city’s environmental regulations give rise to unexpected transportation methods.


Lynnette Widder‘s current research includes work on urban diaspora and non-cultivated plant life, sustainable bauxite mining in West Africa (with the UN Development Program), earth construction and its environmental implications (with Lola Ben Alon and Greg Yetman), and innovation in climate change communication (Climate School Earth Networks). She is the author of Year Zero to Economic Miracle: Hans Schwippert and Sep Ruf in Postwar West German Building Culture (2022) and co-authored Architecture Live Projects: Pedagogy into Practice (2014) and Ira Rakatansky: As Modern as Tomorrow (2010). Her non-fiction has appeared in the Oxonian Review, Daidalos, Bauwelt, Architecture, Manifest, Kritische Berichte, the Journal of Industrial Ecology, and The Social Science Journal; and her fiction, in Northwest Review, Blue White, and Camera Obscura. She was a fellow at the Institute for Ideas and Imagination in 2021.

Vincent Augiseau holds a PhD in urban planning. He is the co-founder of CitéSource, a consulting and research company specialized in innovative assessment methods for circular economy. His research focuses on the metabolism of construction materials in the Paris region.

Agnès Bastin has a PhD in urban studies (CERI, Sciences Po Paris) and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at ISIGE Mines Paris PSL. She studies the management of construction and demolition materials, in particular concrete and excavated soil, and local circular economy policies in Paris and Brussels. Her work falls within the field of territorial ecology and, more generally, focuses on transformations in territorial metabolism, the governance of material flows and the ecologization of planners’ practices.

The panel will be moderated by Eric Verdeil.


NOVEMBER 30, 2023
Rebellious Things
Mohamed Elshahed
DECEMBER 5, 2023
“En-Chanté”: The World of Jacques Demy and Michel Legrand
part 3: Peau d’Âne
DECEMBER 11, 2023
Invisible Consequences: Climate Disaster Recovery
We use cookies to enhance your experience of visiting this website. Find out more.